Marmalade Competitions and Cider Experiments

Marmalade awards
Last week an envelope came through the door – the results of the Marmalade Awards. I had entered my Seville into the Dark and Chunky category, and the pink grapefruit and Campari into the Merry. In the end, I got a silver for the Dark and Chunky and a bronze for the Merry.

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There was some useful feedback on the flavour and presentation. I obviously need to pay more attention to my filling technique. Next year, maybe I’ll manage a gold.

Cider experiments
One of my university assignments is to put together a guide to information resources for a specific area of interest. Given that W and I have been getting to grips with home brewing and home wine-making in the last year, I thought that a guide for home-brewers would be a good topic. ONce ou start looking, it’s amazing what’s out there. I’ve been looking through every home brewing book I could find, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and listening to podcasts.
All of this research has been making me eager to start brewing again. I’ve been concentrating on wine up till now, and all my wine has been made with foraged fruits. As foraged fruit is in short supply at the moment, and it will be a few more weeks (or months) till the elderflowers appear, I’ve got three demijohns sitting around begging to be used so I decided to experiment with some CIDER!
I’ve read a variety of recipes, ranging from those whose ingredient list has been as simple as “apples” to others which include apple juice, honey, pectolase, tannin…. I decide to take the middle ground and ended up with

4 litres apple juice – NOT from concentrate
1 cup of brewers sugar
1 sachet yeast*
1/8 tsp yeast nutrient

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* As this was a bit of a spur of the moment decision, the yeast had to be whatever I could get in the local branch of Lakeland. They currently had univeral wine yeast and beer yeast. I bought one of each. For this batch, I’ve used the wine yeast, but I’ll be trying the beer yeast for the next batch. A lot of the recipes I’ve read have used champagne yeast, so I might try that next. And apparently if you press your own apples for juice, there is enough yeast on the skins and in the air so that you don’t need to add any more.

After sterilising all the equipment, I poured 3.5 litres of juice into the demijohn. I dissolved the sugar and yeast nutrient into the remaining 0.5l and then added this to the rest. I then bunged in the yeast, added the airlock and waited for the magic to happen.
After a slow start, the fermentation took off. It bubbled up to such an extent, I wondered if the yeast was going to escape through the airlock. Its now calmed down, but you can see how far up the demijohn the mixture got.

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It’s still fermenting quite vigorously. I think I’ll give it a few more days and then rack it off into a new demijohn for secondary fermentation, which will be in a darker cooler area. After about two weeks, it should be ready to bottle. Given the experience with beer, I should then wait for about a month before trying it. I’ll let you know how it tastes.

Cocktail Marmalades

After making last week’s Seville orange marmalade, I decided to branch out and try some batches made with other citrus fruits. A trip to the greengrocers saw me acquire pink grapefruit and a lot of limes. I also wanted to try adding some extra flavours. A lot of people add either whisky or ginger to their orange marmalade, but I don’t think either of those flavours would work with grapefruit or lime. I was pondering cardamon, but after sticking my nose in the cardamon jar, I wasn’t convinced I wanted tat flavour on my toast in the morning.
I looked into Niki Segnit’s excellent Flavour Thesaurus for inspiration. In this book, she lists just about any food you can think of and then offers flavour pairings that will complement it. If you look under Rhubarb, you’ll see the suggestion of almonds, black pudding or orange. Look under mint and she suggests blackcurrant, melon and onion.
When I consulted her ideas for grapefruit, my eye was grabbed by grapefruit and Campari. I already know that this is a great cocktail. Try it in a long glass over ice – the perfect summer drink. But it’s a long time till summer, so marmalade it is. Checking online, I found this recipe by Spectacularly Delicious. I adapted it slightly. After blanching and chopping the peel and adding the grapefruit flesh and juice, I also added about a litre of water and simmered the lot for about 45 minutes, or until it had reduced to the original volume. I felt that the peel needed a little more cooking than in the original recipe.
Here is the finished result. Isn’t it a great colour?

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Buoyed up by this success, I started to think about other cocktails. Looking at the limes, I immediately thought of a gin and tonic with a slice of lime. Was there a recipe online for this? Yes, there was courtesy of Burn Black
I have to admit though that when I saw just how many jars I was going to end up with, I chickened out of adding gin to all of them. So, half are virgin lime marmalade and the other half have gin in them.
Here is the pan bubbling away.

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I tried some on my toast this morning. It has a lighter, zingier flavour than traditional orange marmalade. I have to admit, I struggled to taste the gin too, but I might have to compare some of the boozy batch against the teetotal to see if I can taste the difference.
Now I have to think of the next cocktail to render in marmalade. A caipirinha – lime and cachaca? Amaretto sour – lemon and Amaretto? The possibilities are endless!

Marmalade Madness

If it’s January, then it must be marmalade time. What better way to banish the winter blues than to fill the kitchen with bright orange Sevilles and the whole house with the smell of simmering oranges. More than any other preserve, the process of making marmalade seems closest to alchemy, taking the base metals of citrus fruit and sugar and turning them into gold in a jar.
For the second time, I am planning to enter the Dalmain Marmalade Festival competition. They run the Marmalade Awards each year, with all the proceeds going to charity.
There are 13 different categories, and this year I’m aiming for the Dark and Chunky category, though if I can get hold of some interesting citrus fruits, I might try the “citrus with interesting additions” category too!
As I had such success with it last year, I’m using River Cottage’s whole fruit method. Rather than slicing up the peel before boiling, the whole fruit is simmered for two to two-and-a-half hours. Here are the oranges bubbling away in the pot. I wish I could link to the citrussy scents that filled the kitchen.

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Afterwards, the peel is chopped up, as big or as small as you like. I once used the food processor for this, and though it speeded things up, it was hard to control how big the bits of peel were. So I’m afraid that hand chopping is best.

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Then the peel and the remaining liquid are boiled up with the sugar. I like to add muscovado as well as white sugar for a really deep flavour.

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In theory, it only needs ten minutes’ boiling, but I had to do it a lot longer. If it was any other jam, I’d worry that the colour would be too deep and that a caramelly flavour had been introduced, but for marmalade, dark and caramelly works for me.
So finally here are some of the 12 jars I ended up with. W and I don’t always get through it all in one year, but it always seems to be gratefully received by friends and family.

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